On February 24, IADC member and Trial Academy Director John R. Penhallegon received a defense jury verdict after a one week medical malpractice trial in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
The plaintiff, a 38 year old woman, presented to her primary care physician complaining of 2 weeks of progressively worsening lower back pain radiating into the leg. The plaintiff also reported that the morning of her visit she awoke "completely numb" throughout her genital, rectal, and buttocks region. The defendant internist recommended a MRI be obtained within the next two days. The plaintiff scheduled a MRI for the following afternoon. However, when the plaintiff awoke in the morning she was unable to urinate. She went to a local hospital emergency room where a MRI showed a massive disc herniation at L5-S1 completely obliterating the spinal cord at that level. She underwent emergency neurosurgery to decompress the cord but was left with permanent bladder and bowel incontinence, as well as a complete loss of sensation.
Plaintiff's experts alleged that the defendant should have referred the plaintiff immediately for MRI and neurosurgical evaluation because of the potential for development of a surgical emergency known as cauda equina syndrome, a condition caused by compression of the nerves within the spinal canal. Defense experts testified that the history obtained and physical examination performed by the defendant effectively ruled out cauda equina syndrome and a surgical emergency, and the standard of care permitted referral for a MRI on a non-emergency basis.
The jury deliberated for an hour and 20 minutes and returned a verdict finding that the defendant did not breach the standard of care.